Saturday, March 14, 2009

Aloha 'Aina

Alas! I didn't get to share a Fun Fact at our last class. We are approaching our performance season, so most of the class time is devoted to getting our dances down so we can move in elegant unison when we actually have an audience for our dancing. So all the nonessentials are getting stripped from the schedule, and I'm afraid that includes my Fun Facts.

But never fear. I'll continue to post new Fun Facts every week.

As is usually the case, I was inspired for the latest Fun Fact by one of the dances we are practicing. The song title is "Kaua'i Beauty" (evidence of Kaua'i's beauty is in my photo to the left) and the first line is "Hanohano Kaua'i Manokalanipö," or "Glorious Kaua'i of Chief Manokalanipö."

But that's the only mention of the chief. I wondered why his name even came up because the song goes on to laud the beautiful vegetation and fragrances of the island. A bit of Internet research revealed the reason why the chief was even mentioned. The author of the song was using Kaua'i's poetic name or, as it's also know, its aloha 'äina, or a sort of loving land name.

The poetic names for the islands are to me similar to the nicknames for the U.S. states. Calling Kaua'i "Kaua'i of Chief Manokalaipö" is not much different from calling Illinois "land of Lincoln," or, to quote from the Oregon state song, calling Oregon "land of the empire builders."

Thus, each of the eight Hawaiian islands has a poetic name that refers to a great chief, god or goddess.

Kaua'i's poetic name is Kaua'i-o-Manokalanipö, a reference to a chief born in about 1430. When Kaua'i was invaded by combined forces from all the other islands, Manokalanipö's father wrote it off as a lost cause and didn't even bother to mount a defense. He told his son to give it a try. But somehow young Manokalanipö managed to defeat the invaders. To honor his great victory, his name will always be associated with Kaua'i's name.

The poetic name of Ni'ihau is Ni'ihau-o-Kahelelani. All I could find about Kehelelani was that he was an ancient chief. But the beautiful little white shells that are made into Ni'ihau's prized lei became known as Kahelelani in the chief's honor.

O'ahu's poetic name is O'ahu-o-Käkuhihewa after a 16th-century chief who was renowned for his brilliance and talent in all the kingly arts. He had a long reign marked by peace and prosperity.

Moloka'i's poetic name is Moloka'i-Nui-a-Hina, or the great Moloka'i of Hina. Hina is a goddess, considered the mother of the island. She also is said to live in the moon. So if you thought there was a man in the moon, you're wrong. It's Hina.

Maui bears the name of a chief who had an ignominious end after unsuccessfully invading Hawai'i. Maui-Nui-a-Kama means the great Maui of Kama, after Kama-lälä-walu, a 16th century chief who quickly went from prisoner to human sacrifice after being captured. His death was said to be prolonged and painful and was grieved by his dogs, a white dog and a black dog that whined and howled long after he died. To this day people claim to see the ghosts of these dogs, still looking for their master.

Läna'i has a fun history behind its name, Läna'i-a-Kaululä'au. Kaululä'au literally means the ulu (breadfruit) grove and it's the name given to a chief who was banished from his home on Maui to Läna'i after goofing off to excess and somehow destroying his father's ulu grove. Dad thought it would teach the lad a lesson to live on an island inhabited only by spooky spirits. But to everyone's surprise, Kaululä'au was accepted by the spirits as their chief. Later the chief returned to Maui, where he became chief there too.

The uninhabited island of Kaho'olawe is known as Kohe-mälamalama-o-Kanaloa, or "the shining beacon of Kanaloa." The god Kanaloa is the god of the sea and of fishermen.

Hawai'i's poetic name is Hawai'i-Moku-o-Keawe. The name Keawe was shortened from the chief's actual name, Keawe-i-kekahi-ali'i-o-ka moku, which means Keawe, first chief of the island. He reigned in the 17th century and was the great-great grandfather of Kamehameha the Great.

No comments: